Never say never when it comes to buying a first home.

There are still properties at the bottom end of the market being bought by first-time buyers who set their sights lower than a few years back.

When asked about the bottom end, the folks at Realestate.co.nz came up with a long list of traditional homes for under $500,000. Most were at the outer extremities of Auckland to the south, west and north.

There are an awful lot of bottom-end properties that come with potential problems such as leaks, excessively high ground rent, or huge body corporate costs.

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For buyers who go in with their eyes truly wedged open with matchsticks, these properties can be great buys.

Average first-time buyers, however, are often better off with a traditional weatherboard, brick-and-tile or concrete block house, flat or unit.

If you want a standalone home on its own section, you're likely to be looking on the fringes of Auckland. But they are available, albeit often on cross-leased properties, and may only have one or two bedrooms.

A classic example is a two-bedroom weatherboard bungalow in Swanson.

It's not beautiful, but with a train within walking distance and the Waitakere Ranges on your doorstep it's not a bad place to start on the property ladder.

The closer to town you go, the nearer your neighbours are going to be for a bargain-basement property. Apartments are an option.

Sometimes there are fewer fishhooks with 1970s units, which are cheaper than similar sized standalone properties.

One example of an affordable ugly duckling I saw was a two-bedroom top-floor unit in a 1970s block in Blease St, New Lynn. Properties like this are solid.

Sometimes there are very nice interiors hiding behind plain exteriors. One in Massey Rd, Mangere, isn't a location you'd grow up dreaming about.

But it has polished floorboards, light, space, a modern kitchen and proximity to the airport if you work there.

If you work from home and want an alternative lifestyle, there are cheaper homes available on islands in the Hauraki gulf.

For $275,000 you get an entire ply-and-batten home with a view of the beach in Tryphena harbour. One example offers three bedrooms for a rock-bottom price.

It needs some upgrading, but would be a very cheap place for the right person to buy.
Sometimes the biggest problem with bottom-end homes is buyer attitude.

Yet if you want to get on the property ladder, says Corinne Kennedy, branch manager at Harcourts Papakura, you're going to need to downsize your expectations or move further out from the suburb you grew up in.

Kennedy wishes she saw more first-time buyers willing to buy in Papakura. Those who are willing to move out to Papakura have - after a few years - sufficient equity to move somewhere better.

She's just seen a couple who bought a bottom-end Papakura property four years ago move into a brand new home in a nearby subdivision.

What's more, first-time buyers in Kennedy's neck of the woods aren't mortgaging themselves so highly that they don't have a life.